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By Peter Hoskin
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RestartI’m
afraid this is one of those mornings for taking stock of the Coalition. If you
feel that both parties will benefit from a relatively harmonious working
relationship, as I do, then it’s not looking good. Not only do we have the
intra-Coalition spat of all intra-Coalition spats—the suspension,
for this Parliament at least, of the boundary reforms—but there are also some
other tales of Lib-Con woe floating around the papers. Nick Clegg, apparently, is
eager to argue
down
Michael Gove’s proposals for the history curriculum. And Lord
Oakeshott is agitating
against David Cameron
as only Lord Oakeshott can.

At
times like this, I like to refer to a
list I wrote last year
of concessions that the Tories could make to the Lib
Dems in return for their support for, say, er… boundary reform. And, looking at
that list now, it stirs even more pessimism. Most—perhaps even all—of those
concessions have already been pushed
out of the realm of possibility
, leaving David Cameron with very little
leverage against his Coalition partners. There’s a dwindling amount of New Big
Stuff that the Lib Dems will be permitted, which could hamper Tory efforts to achieve
New Big Stuff of their own. All of it suggests that the Coalition faces
atrophy.


But
there is another list I wrote last summer – not of concession, but of areas
of natural compromise
between the Tories and the Lib Dems. And while this
list also incites pessimism, insofar as the recent Midterm Review wasn’t
exactly a model of renewed cooperation, it also gives cause for optimism. Much
progress has already been made on one of its provisions: childcare. And the other entries aren’t really too much to ask. You
can see them all by following the link above, but here’s an abridged version of
the list as a reminder:

  • Political
    reform.

    Particularly, the cutting of Parliamentary perks and the reform of party
    fudning.
  • Civil
    liberties.

    As Dominic Raab put it, “overhauling the blunt
    extradition regime that hangs too many of our citizens out to dry.”
  • Transparency, spending cuts … and tax cuts? Greater cuts to Whitehall waste, spearheaded by David
    Laws, and with the money going towards deficit reduction and perhaps even tax
    cuts for low-income earners.
  • Employee ownership. Expanding on the work
    already done to establish mutual.

I’d
probably even add another item to the list now, although it is, admittedly,
much more fanciful than the others. And that is… Europe. Of course, the
Conservatives are more naturally Eurosceptic than the Lib Dems, and the latter
do not, as yet, agree with Mr Cameron’s proposal for an In/Out referendum – but, as I
shall soon write about in more detail, there is more similarity between the
views of the two party leaderships than Westminster legend might have you believe.
Even now, we know that both parties will go into the next election calling for
reform of the European Union. If they can work out areas of common argument
now, then it will make that process even easier – and strengthen the likelihood
of another Lib-Con coalition after 2015.

Like I say, expect more
from me on this, shortly.

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